The Chhattisgarh government gave an undertaking before the Supreme Court on Tuesday to not arrest and investigate Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar’s role in the alleged murder of a tribal man in Maoist-affected area of the state.
Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta and lawyer Atul Jha assured the court the state police would not take any action against the six people named in the FIR without the top court’s permission.
The submission was made before a bench headed by Justice MB Lokur, which recorded the statement in its order and said the Chhattisgarh government will give advance notice of four weeks to Sundar and five others before proceeding against them.
“They (Sundar and others) can approach the court after notice is served to them,” the bench said, declining the plea asking the state to take SC’s permission before arresting or interrogating the human rights activists.
“No, they can’t be stopped perpetually. If there is a crime, they need to proceed. It is their statutory right. They will first give you notice and then they can proceed,” the bench said, adding it won’t go into the merits of the case now. It did not take Chhattisgarh government’s sealed cover report on the case.
“We don’t need to look at everything. You have made a statement. Now it is on record. You will have to give advance notice. As and when you want to proceed, show us the material,” the bench told Mehta when he insisted the court must peruse the documents.
On November 7, Sundar, JNU professor Archana Prasad and four more including two villagers were booked on charges of murder of a tribal villager in the insurgency-hit Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.
Police claimed that alleged armed Maoists had killed the villager, Shamnath Baghel, with sharp weapons on the night of November 4 at his residence in Nama village in Tongpal area, around 450 kms from Raipur. Baghel and some of others were spearheading protests against Maoist activities in their village since April. The case was registered at the behest of the victim’s wife.
Sundar moved the apex court challenging the criminal case. Her counsel, senior advocate Ashok Desai, flashed newspaper clips and complained that inspector general, Bastar range, K Sivarama Prasad Kalluri, had recently made a statement that Sundar and others will not be able to enter Bastar as people will stone them. “This should not be allowed. In fact, they have not gone to the area since May,” Desai said.
Sundar also submitted a proposal to the court, suggesting involvement of a former SC judge to mediate between Left-wing extremists and the government. The court, however, refused to pass any orders on her proposal and asked the state to look into it.